Conservation News: Could Fake Palm Oil Made From Food Waste Help Save Orangutans?

photo: from Co-Exist
photo: from Co-Exist

by Adele Peters at Co.Exist

Scientists have come up with a method to produce fake palm oil—not a moment too soon for Indonesia’s rainforests.

In a single day, you might use a dozen products made with palm oil, an ingredient in many consumer products such as toothpaste, cereal, laundry detergent, instant noodles, and vitamins. By some estimates, as many as half of the packaged items in a grocery store might contain it.

That’s been a long-term problem for orangutans, which happen to live in the same Indonesian rainforests that are bulldozed to make way for palm oil plantations. So now researchers are working an alternative: A fake palm oil made from yeast and food waste.

Despite some recent efforts to produce palm oil more sustainably, more than 80% of orangutan habitat has disappeared over the last 20 years. In the fall of 2015, illegal slash-and-burn cutting practices led to massive wildfires that threatened a third of the world’s remaining population of the apes. It’s not just orangutans at risk; the most recent fires alone caused $9 billion in damages.

Around 60 million metric tons of palm oil are produced each year, and more than half comes from Indonesia. But if the new palm oil alternative can be scaled up for industrial production, that may change.

This excerpt from an article appeared in and is courtesy of Co.EXIST and can be read in its entirety here.

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